Dimension Jump XIII

Friday Night

After a roaring welcome for our ultra-dedicated hosts, Hattie Hayridge took to the floor to present the all-new quiz, Test the Smeggers. "We had to do it early," Hattie explained, "before you couldn't remember where you were. Or who you were."

She quickly found her perfect lighting point on-stage ("What a pro. Not in that way.") and zipped through the slickly-presented questions on screen: "A music round, a what-happens-next round, a round of toast..."

The whole event, in fact, became a witty platform for Hattie's particular brand of dottiness - telling stories of an American TV executive who has 'King of the Potato People' on his business cards ("People who don't know Red Dwarf think he's a bit mental") and the myth she happily perpetuates to a friend's child that she, Hattie, is the voice you hear singing over the Red Dwarf closing credits.

So, while I sat in my corner wishing we'd come up with the title 'Test the Smeggers', the rounds played on. "What episode is this prop from...and who nicked it? Own up."

With people's knowledge tested, the karaoke kicked-off in good style. A Dimension Jump first, this, and one that should be repeated - because for every mangled performance or irritating song choice (I'll show you the way to bloody Amarillo), there were plenty of in-tune, energetic performances. Who would have believed it?

The singing took a break, though, when an only mildly lubricated crowd welcomed Chris Barrie to the stage. "It's nice to be here while everyone's sober... or, at least, not hungover."

One fan asked if Chris would duet with her, and Mr Barrie took the chance to flick through the karaoke menu as his talk continued. Career advice was requested and duly handed out, though it wasn't all positive: "They say changing agents is like changing deckchairs on the Titanic." And how do you get an agent? "Erm...oh, look, Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones!" Give the man his due, he knows how to duck a question with style.

Who would Chris prefer to share a caravan with, Brittas or Rimmer? In the end, the more sober, tidy sides of Brittas won that one. That and the lack of rage. "Rimmer would try to murder me!"

Asked if he could do an American accent, Chris duly obliged, then praised his questioner for their attempt at an American accent... before discovering that it was real. "I'm from the U.S." " Ah. I thought your accent slipped," Barrie backtracked. "At least I can understand you - which is more than I can say for your president."

A run-down of his recent career covered new movie Back in Business (more details here), the filming of new series Massive Speed, and sending all best wishes to his Petrolheads co-star Richard Hammond.

So - has Chris ever read any fan-fiction? Even the 'slash' stuff (where Rimmer and Lister tend to cop off)? "Would you be offended if I said I hadn't a clue what you're on about?" It seems that snog in Blue really started something, but Chris was cynical. "A kiss is nothing you can base a whole relationship on."

A request to perform the oft-promised Munchkin song caused a hurried return to the Karaoke menu, though in the end he did his best. (Give the man a break. He gets asked every year, and it's not even him singing the song in the episode!) "We'll still do Islands in the Stream later," he lied to his would-be duet partner.

Another raft of voices followed - sports commentators featuring highly - but a definite highlights were his scenes of Craig begging Chris to return to the show, and Danny ranting in the make-up room.

What prop would he steal from the show? ("Ace's wig" was yelled out, perpetuating the rumour that the actor nicked the hero's hairpiece because it made him look cool.) Turns out Chris actually has one of the baby skutters from Parallel Universe, but the tech fan in him would have liked one of the Starbug cockpit chairs.

Rounding things out with the usual nonsense - the differences of filming Brittas and Dwarf, his weight and workout routine, his septic tank and the virtues of the soak-away system - a wave of applause carried our Mr Rimmer away... to sign autographs. For ages.

As the karaoke continued and the libations flowed, it was a rare fan who gave much thought to how a heavy night might affect them come Saturday morning.